Organizational Studies/Psychology 103
Take Home Exam 2, Summer Session, 2010
1. Define conformity, and distinguish between compliance, obedience, and acceptance, giving examples of each. What types of influences lead to conformity? When are we likely to conform and why does it have a negative connotation in Western society? Compare and contrast the conformity experiments of Sherif and Asch. Describe their methodology and the results that they observed. What processes seem to be at work in each case? In your view, would we get the same results today?
Conformity is defined by Aronson (1988) as ‘a change in a persons behaviour or opinions as a result of real or imagined pressure from a person or group of people. Sherif’s (1935) study of the autokinetic effect, which was an optical illusion, is one of the classic conformity experiments. He placed people in a completely dark room and let them observe a pinprick of light for some time; this gave them the illusion that the light moved erratically. Sherif asked individuals to estimate how far the light moved on several trials. Their estimates were typical to that individual. He then asked people the same question in-groups of two or three. Their estimates were of a normative value, (typical to that group). When people were alone again they continued to estimate consistent with the group norm.
Sherif’s (1935) study was ambiguous, (there was no right or wrong answer), and this made it difficult to draw any definite conclusions about conformity. It meant that individuals relied on the judgments of others when they had no clear way of deciding what judgments to make for themselves. Conformity effects would be better assessed more directly, by having all but one of the participants taking part to give the same answer and then seeing what effect this has on the remaining participant. Jacobs and Campbell carried out an experiment such as this in 1961, using the autokinetic effect. They found strong... [continues]
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